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Sporting Their Loyalties on Their Sleeves

Eagles and McNabb, 3rd Black Quarterback in Super Bowl, Inspire Area Fans

By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 5, 2005; Page B03

Ten-year-old Addison Pruitt is normally a Washington Redskins fan, but come Sunday, he'll be cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles in a green-and-black football jersey.

"I'm going to be hoping for the Philadelphia Eagles to win," said Addison, a fifth-grader from Mitchellville. "It's going to make history. There's only been one black quarterback ever to win the Superbowl, and that was Doug Williams with the Redskins. I would like to see a black quarterback win."

Avery Hunter-Hackney, 11, left, and Addison Pruitt, 10, both of Mitchellville, sport their Philadelphia Eagles colors. The team is Super Bowl-bound, and the jerseys are tough to come by in the Washington area. (Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)

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_____Mark Maske's NFL Insider_____
Weis Is Working Overtime (washingtonpost.com, Feb 4, 2005)
Thomason Settles Into Role With Eagles (washingtonpost.com, Feb 3, 2005)
E. Smith Retirement May Come as Cowboy (washingtonpost.com, Feb 2, 2005)

Across the Washington region, middle-school boys are converging on sporting goods and clothing stores in search of jerseys emblazoned with the emblem of the Philadelphia Eagles, who will compete against the New England Patriots tomorrow in Superbowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla.

At Shoe City at Boulevard at the Capital Centre, more than 25 people a day come in looking for Eagles merchandise, said apparel manager Ron Cooke. "The biggest demand is for the jerseys and the jackets," he said. "But we're all out of everything now. All the Philadelphia jerseys are gone because the Superbowl is Sunday, and all the kids wanted one for that."

Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens is a popular choice, but the hottest jersey, especially among black youngsters, belongs to No. 5, Donovan McNabb -- who is only the third black quarterback to compete in the championship game.

At Sports Authority in Greenbelt, kids came in looking specifically for McNabb jerseys. The store sold out two weeks ago, right before the Eagles played the Atlanta Falcons in the final playoff game, said saleswoman Melody Schine.

Eagles' jerseys sold out weeks ago at the Athlete's Foot outlet in Potomac Mills, said Keith Williams, a salesman at the mall in Woodbridge. "We've had a lot of people coming in, especially in the last couple of weeks and after the playoffs." Potential buyers have been across the age and race spectrums, he said.

The last black man to lead a team to the Super Bowl was Tennessee Titans and former Alcorn State University quarterback Steve McNair, in 2000. The Titans lost to the St. Louis Rams, 23-16.

In 1988, Williams and the Redskins beat the Denver Broncos, 42-10, in Super Bowl XXII -- before today's middle-school students were born.

"Doug Williams was the MVP," Addison said.

His neighbor, Avery Hunter-Hackney, 11, said he wants the Eagles to win because of McNabb. "I'd like to see him get a Super Bowl ring," he said.

With Campbell's soup commercials featuring McNabb and his mother on television and a mention in a song by rapper Nelly, McNabb holds a handful of cool points with the 10- to 13-year-old set.

"Terrell Owens is smooth, but Donovan is the man," said Avery, who owns a Bobby Taylor Philadelphia Eagles throwback jersey and baseball cap. "He gets it done."

Rick Haddock, an analyst for Sports Authority Inc., said there is a run on team apparel anytime that team heads to the Super Bowl. Although adults buy more jerseys, "there is a definite market for the kids," he said.

"They admire these guys," Haddock said. "Football is the number one sport in America right now. They just emulate these guys. They want to be these guys, especially when they do well like Donovan McNabb or [New England Patriots] quarterback Tom Brady. As close as you can get to being Donovan McNabb is wearing his number and name on their back."

It helps that the team is winning, said Jahleel Nelson, 8, of Arlington.

"They are my favorite team because I can count on them to win."

Jahleel has been asking for a jersey, but his mother has refused so far because of the prices. "I went to Reebok.com Web site, and a jersey in his size was $70," Tanya Nelson said. "I thought that was too much for an 8-year-old. I can't get him to keep up with a $2 notebook, let alone a $70 jersey."

Jordan Lindsay, 12, a seventh-grader from Silver Spring, is going shopping today for a Terrell Owens jersey to add to his shirts honoring Clinton Portis (Redskins), Randy Moss (Minnesota Vikings) and Eddie George (Dallas Cowboys).

Jordan said he will wear the jersey when he goes to a friend's football party tomorrow. "I'm going to be rooting for Philadelphia," he said. "I hope the jersey will be good luck."

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